Rabbit Damage to Magnolia

Asked March 21, 2020, 7:09 PM EDT

I have some recent rabbit damage to the lower branches of my magnolia tree that is about 18 years old. Should I remove the chewed branches? They still have flower buds on them and don't look sick but the damage is recent. I have read that magnolias don't respond well to pruning. If I should prune, how and when should the branches be removed.

Lenawee County Michigan

2 Responses

Hello,

Magnolia can be pruned in spring after blooms start to fade. The pencil sized branches with damage can be pruned back to the trunk using sharp clean pruners. Trim close to the trunk without cutting the bark of the main trunk. When two branches grow close to each other and cross and rub each other, one of these should be removed. The large branch with some gnaw marks will likely recover, so you can leave that one alone. Do not seal or paint the cuts or damaged areas. A sharp clean cut heals over more quickly. Never remove more than 1/3 of the total branches in one season on any one plant. See links below for pictures of correct pruning.

To prevent more damage, consider using rabbit fence or hardware cloth and protect the lower 24 inches of the tree from late fall through spring. Remove the fencing each year, if you would like, and replace each fall.

https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/animal_damage_meadow_voles_and_rabbits_and_abiotic_injury

https://www.johnson.k-state.edu/lawn-garden/agent-articles/miscellaneous/rabbit-damage-prevention.html

Correct pruning helps improve air circulation, removes dead , diseased or damaged wood. Here are links to guide you.

https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/HO/HO-4-W.pdf

https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/430/430-456/430-456.html

https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/pruning-trees

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I pruned according to the advise ensuring to be very careful not to scrape the bark on adjourning branches. As a result, some of the cuts were further from the trunk than I would like. I am questioning if I should also trim the other two long branches that are closest to the ground. One has rabbit damage and the other is certainly reachable by the rabbits. I am also wondering about what plants I could plant at the base of the tree that might do well. I am partial to Hostas and wonder if that might be a good plant for the base. Thanks so much.